Preparation for the Classroom: Connecticut

2017 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that its alternate routes provide efficient preparation that is relevant to the immediate needs of new teachers, as well as intensive induction support. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.

Meets in part

Analysis of Connecticut's policies

Connecticut offers four alternate certification routes: the Connecticut Office of Higher Education (OHE) Alternate Route to Certification (ARC), the Charter Oak State College Early Childhood Alternate Route to Certification, Teach For America, and Relay Connecticut.

Coursework Requirements: Connecticut provides few guidelines about the nature and quantity of coursework for its alternate routes.  Connecticut's OHE ARC candidates take core sessions that cover such topics as classroom management, differentiated instruction, lesson/unit planning, and assessment of student learning. ARC candidates also take methods classes that aim to prepare ARC candidates to plan and teach content and assess students. The Charter Oak State College program requires that candidates complete multiple field-based projects throughout the program and a four-week full-time internship. The program incorporates a series of modules that include methods courses, preparation on classroom management, intervention and strategies for children with special needs, and early literacy. TFA candidates must complete an intensive five week summer-training program, but the program does not list specific coursework requirements. The Relay curriculum centers around elements aligned with the immediate needs of new teachers (e.g., building subject knowledge, classroom culture, developing personal connections with students and families, creating high-quality lessons, and data-driven instruction). The two-year program incorporates both traditional coursework and field-embedded requirements.

Induction Support: Connecticut's does not set induction support requirements at the state level. ARC candidates must complete a six-week practicum through which candidates are placed with a team of professionals who are expected to provide a practical introduction to teaching. This team of professionals includes a trained cooperating teacher and an evaluator from the ARC program who will evaluate a candidate's performance. The ARC program also provides voluntary instructional coaching to assist recent program graduates. The Charter Oak State College program incorporates supervised field experiences throughout the entire program, including a four-week internship. TFA candidates receive classroom support throughout the course of the residency program, which lasts two school years. After completing an initial year of practice teaching alongside a lead teacher, Relay candidates receive ongoing support from program faculty and a mentor at their school.

Supervised Practice Teaching Requirements: Connecticut's ARC candidates must complete a six-week student practicum, which is aimed at providing candidates with an opportunity, under supervision, "to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to become effective teachers." The Charter Oak State College program does not specify supervised practice teaching requirements. TFA candidates must complete a practice teaching opportunity. The Relay program requires candidates to complete a year-long, full-time practice teaching residency where they gain gradual responsibility of the classroom while serving alongside a lead classroom teacher.

Citation

Recommendations for Connecticut

Establish coursework guidelines for alternate route preparation programs.
While some of Connecticut's alternate routes provide adequate guidelines regarding the nature and amount of coursework required of candidates, the state should take steps to streamline these requirements to ensure that all candidates are sufficiently prepared for success in the classroom. Requirements should be manageable given the time constraints of a novice teacher and contribute to the immediate needs of new teachers.  Appropriate coursework should include grade-level or subject-level seminars, methodology in the content area, classroom management, and scientifically based early reading instruction.  However well-intentioned, any course that is not fundamentally practical and immediately necessary should be eliminated as a requirement.

Strengthen induction experience for all new teachers.
While Connecticut's alternate route programs are commended for assigning mentors to all beginning teachers, it is unclear that all mentoring programs are structured for new teacher success.  The state should strengthen its induction experience by providing for: intensive mentoring with full classroom support in the first few weeks or months of school, a reduced teaching load, and release time to allow new teachers to observe experienced teachers during the school day.

State response to our analysis

Connecticut was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.

How we graded

5B: Preparation for the Classroom 

  • Practice Teaching: The state should require a supervised practice-teaching experience.
  • Induction: The state should require that all new teachers receive intensive induction support.
  • Manageable Coursework: The state should ensure that the amount of coursework it either requires or allows is manageable for a novice teacher. Anything exceeding 12 credit hours may be counterproductive, placing too great a burden on the teacher. This calculation is premised on no more than six credit hours in the summer, three credit hours in the spring, and three credit hours in the fall.
  • Targeted Coursework: The state should ensure that all coursework requirements are targeted to the immediate needs of the new teacher (e.g., seminars with other grade-level teachers, classroom management techniques, training in a particular curriculum, reading instruction).
Preparation for the Classroom
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state will earn the full point if all four elements are required for all alternate route programs.
  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if three elements are required for all alternate route programs.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if two elements are required for at least some of the state's alternate route programs.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if one element is required for at least one of the state's alternate route programs.

Research rationale

Alternate route programs must provide practical, meaningful preparation that is sensitive to a new teacher's workload and stress level. Too many states have policies requiring alternate route programs to "backload" large amounts of traditional education coursework, thereby preventing the emergence of real alternatives to traditional preparation. This issue is especially important given the large proportion of alternate route teachers who complete this coursework while teaching. Alternate route teachers often have to deal with the stresses of beginning to teach while also completing required coursework in the evenings and on weekends.[1] States need to be careful to require participants only to meet standards or complete coursework that is practical and immediately helpful to a new teacher.[2] That is, while advanced pedagogy coursework may be meaningful for veteran teachers, alternate route coursework should build on more fundamental teaching competencies such as classroom management techniques, reading instruction, or curriculum delivery.

Most new teachers—regardless of their preparation—find themselves overwhelmed by taking on their own classrooms. This is especially true for alternate route teachers, who may have had considerably less classroom exposure or pedagogy training than traditionally prepared teachers.[3] States must ensure that alternate route programs do not leave new teachers to "sink or swim" on their own when they begin teaching. It is critical that all alternate route programs provide at least a brief student teaching or other supervised practice experience for candidates before they enter the classroom, as well as ongoing induction support during those first critical months as a new teacher.[4]


[1] Constantine, J., Player, D., Silva, T., Hallgren, K., Grider, M., & Deke, J. (2009). An evaluation of teachers trained through different routes to certification. Final Report. NCEE 2009-4043. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED504313.pdf
[2] Walsh, K., & Jacobs, S. (2007). Alternative certification isn't alternative. Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED498382.pdf
[3] Greenberg, J., Walsh, K., & McKee, A. (2014). Teacher Prep Review: A review of the nation's teacher preparation programs. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Teacher_Prep_Review_2014_Report
[4] For a further review of the research on new teacher induction, see: Rogers, M., Lopez, A., Lash, A., Schaffner, M., Shields, P., & Wagner, M. (2004). Review of research on the impact of beginning teacher induction on teacher quality and retention. Retrieved from http://www.newteacher.com/pdf/ResearchontheImpactofInduction.pdf